Jamis-Sutter Homes’ Alejandro Borrajo won Sunday’s final stage of the Redlands Bicycle Classic, with Ben Day (Fly V Australia) clinging to the overall lead he established in the prologue thanks to his teammates marshaling the peloton all day.
“I won the prologue, but Fly V Australia won the race today,” Day said. “We had eight on the front; they controlled the race so, so well. I fail to believe that any team has been able to control this stage as well as they did today.”
Evelyn Stevens won the women’s race after helping her HTC-Columbia teammate Ina-Yoko Teutenberg secure her overall victory.
Men’s: The day began with a narrow separation at the top of the general classification. Bissell’s Ben Jacques-Maynes came into the stage a fraction of a second behind Day, with three Jelly Belly riders within four seconds of the jersey, Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis) six seconds back and Luis Araman (Jamis-Sutter Home) at 12 seconds. There were a total of 26 bonus seconds on the line, and a hard day of racing ahead.
After climbing up out of town, the men tackled a hilly loop 12 times.
There were 3-, 2- and 1-second bonuses at the first KOM, and Sutherland grabbed the first spot. Jelly Belly’s Kiel Reijnen, fifth on GC, grabbed two seconds for second and Day took third. The race for the overall tightened.
A break went on the next lap and included Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell), Davide Frattini (Team Type 1), Pat McCarty (Yahoo!), Tyler Wren (Jamis-Sutter Home), Lachlan Morton (Holowesko Partners), Dan Bowman (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Phil Zajicek (Fly V) and Corey Collier and Jason Donald (both Bahati Foundation). They built a maximum lead of about three minutes.
Collier, McCarty and Pinfold worked the front of the group over the next two laps and the gap went to 50 seconds after Zajicek dropped back to the field to help protect his GC leader.
“Initially we thought that if we covered it and there was no Jelly Belly, they would ride, but they weren’t going to ride,” Zajicek said. “It didn’t make any difference having me there, so it was better to be back with Ben.”
The eleven remaining riders rolled smoothly to push the gap out, particularly after sprinter Pinfold dropped off of the group with what appeared to be cramping in his right leg. The crowds lining the course grew in opposition to the lap counter and by the halfway point, the break had nearly three minutes on the first chase group.
Up ahead in the breakaway, with five laps to go a pickup truck drove onto the course just as the riders came screaming through a downhill chicane at more than 45 mph. Everyone managed to avert catastrophe, however, with the worst damage being Morton suffering a flat after burning through his front tire by locking up the brakes. And even he was able to chase back on at the foot of the circuit’s main climb. The incident cost the group 30 seconds and they arrived to the climb with a 2:30 advantage.
“If that car would have been two seconds later, he would have killed one of us,” Donald said. “We were going 65 K an hour and he just appeared over the hedge out of nowhere. If he had been two seconds later, one of us would have gone over his hood.”
Collier, who had surfed in and out of the back of the break for two laps dropped off when Morton went to the front and when the leaders arrived to the summit, their advantage was still north of 2:30.
Behind them the chase reorganized, however, and with successive attacks by Francois Parisien (Spidertech-Planet Energy), Aleman and Reijnen, the yellow jersey group drew a minute back on the leaders in one lap.
Sensing the advancing chase, Frattini and Jacques-Maynes jumped away on the climb with two laps remaining. The tandem gapped the group twice, but Donald reeled them in each time.
The break wasn’t alone in mishaps and their luck turned up … With his Fly V teammates on the front, Day and another rider went down in a crash, but Day was able to quickly remount, and then rejoin the pack with the assistance of teammate Phil Zajicek.
As the break entered the final lap – and final climb of Sunset Ridge, they clung to a one-minute advantage, and when Jacques-Maynes was left on the front for the entire ascent, the gap shrank by five seconds every half mile.
As the Australian team has been doing for two weekends now, Fly V drove the peloton in defense of Day’s overall lead. After completing the last circuit, the race descended back into Redlands for five finishing laps on the criterium circuit. As prearranged, finishing times were given to riders based on when they crossed a line before entering the circuit. (Race officials correctly expected the peloton to be shattered by the end of the day, and didn’t want multiple groups entering the criterium circuit at intervals.) Still, there were time bonuses of 10, 6 and 4 seconds available at the finish, not to mention the stage win.
The breakaway was finally caught with four laps to go on the finishing circuit. Araman took a solo flyer that seemed like it might stick. UnitedHealthcare helped chase it back, and had Sutherland primed to go for the stage win and the 10-second bonus that would vault him into the lead. But it was not to be. Instead, it was Borrajo who took the win ahead of Fly V’s Charles Dionne and Raymond Kreder of the Holowesko Partners U23 squad.
“It was a very hard day because it’s a down, climb, down, climb. I suffered so much, but I am happy now,” Borrajo said. “If you enter the (final) corner third, you can not win the stage. I did the turn fast, side by side with (UnitedHealthcare’s Karl] Menzies, and I did very well.”
Behind Menzies, Reijnen and Sutherland finished fifth and sixth, respectively, narrowly missing any more time bonuses. Ben Jacques-Maynes placed 11th in the final sprint, retaining his second place overall standing.
“We never panicked, we always had it under control,” Day said. “We don’t have race radios, but we have each other and it worked so well today.”
Women’s: Evelyn Stevens (HTC-Columbia) put on a show on the Sunset Loop, pulling away from an elite group 5km from the finish to take the win.
A 3.5-mile neutral section delivered the women’s peloton nearly to the base of the circuit, which they faced nine times. As soon as the referee’s paddle turned green, Teutenberg’s HTC-Columbia teammates ratcheted the pace up, splitting the field into more than four distict groups before they reached the foot of the Sunset Ridge climb for the first QOM.
Time bonuses of three, two and one seconds were on the line at the summit of the climb and the GC favorites made no bones about their intentions on the opening ascent. Teutenberg and Stevens, Alison Powers (Vera Bradley Foundation), Kathryn Mattis (Webcor Builders), Rebecca Much (TIBCO-To The Top) and Amber Neben (Dare To Be-BMW-Bianchi) emerged from the shattering peloton to take a 30-second lead on the climb.
Powers was first over the top, taking full points to secure her mountains jersey with Mattis second and Abbott third. The gaps to the other end of the race quickly ballooned to seven minutes and by the time the leaders reached the descent of East Sunset Drive, the race was spread across Sunset Ridge in groups of ten to twenty riders.
An elite group of chasers, including TIBCO teammates Brooke and Meredith Miller, made contact with the leaders on the second lap, bringing the number of leaders to 14. Teutenberg, Mattis and Kelly Benjamin (Colavita-Baci) tested the group over the next few laps, gaining up to 25 seconds with solo attacks.
The real fireworks came on the Sunset Ridge climb seven laps into the race. The group rolled onto the base of the climb largely intact, but Abbott and Neben snuck away early on the three-mile ascent, building a gap of 20 seconds by the summit of the climb. Stevens and Teutenberg bridged across on the rolling upper roads with Mattis, Miller and Powers in tow
Pulling on the descending skills that put her on the U.S. Ski Team out of high school, Powers attacked at the top of the descent on the penultimate lap and arrived to the sharp ramps low on the final lap with a 40 second gap. The subsequent chase put Teutenberg in trouble low on Sunset Ridge, as she fell off the pace of Abbott, Mattis, Meredith Miller and Neben.
Stevens went to the front of the second chase group and pulled her leader back from the 30-second deficit she suffered one mile into the climb and the front group was together again as they topped out on Sunset Drive and rolled onto the descent to downtown Redlands.
The group wove across the road with multiple attacks as they swept onto the flat, four-lane West Highland Avenue. Stevens wound up and unleashed a furious acceleration just before the road turned downward again and quickly earned a 15-second gap. Mattis went to the front and drove the chase, but with Teutenberg hawking every attempt to bridge, Stevens grasped to a ten-second lead with three kilometers to go.
Mattis drew the lead back under five seconds as the race entered the criterium course for the final kilometer, but when Stevens opened up her sprint out of the final corner there was not catch to be made and the stage winner was comfortable enough to post up for the photographers on the line.
“(Stevens) was amazing,” said Teutenberg. “She really worked so hard all day and it wasn’t easy. To be able to finish it off like that is something special.
Stevens was ecstatic with her dramatic win. “I’m really happy,” she said. “With about five kilometers to go I heard Ina say ‘Go’ so I thought, why not. I’ve worked so hard up to now why not try to win, too. I attacked and got away and just sat on my nose and grinded it in. It was my first time for the two-hand victory salute. It was big.” [nggallery id=266]